670 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
nausea, vomiting, colic, diarrhoea, giddiness, heaviness in the head, pale or cyanosed
face, dyspnoea, drowsiness deepening into stupor, coma and death. The breath, vomit
and urine give off the peculiar smell of kerosene. The pupils are at first contracted, but
become dilated when coma supervenes. Convulsions may occur in some cases. Relapse
may follow an apparent recovery, especially among children, who may develop inflam-
matory changes in the lungs and degenerative changes in the myocardium, liver,
kidneys and alimentary canal.
Fatal Dose and Fatal Period.— Uncertain. A dose of half-an-ounce proved fatal in
four hours. A child, aged 3 years, drank a mouthful of kerosene and died in seven
hours.21 A child, 5 years old, who was given 4 drachms of kerosene in mistake for a
medicinal mixture, developed hyperpyrexia and convulsions and died on the second
day.22 A boy, aged 16 years, died on the next day after he was given 2 ounces of
kerosene by a quack to reduce his high temperature.23
Treatment.— If the fumes have been inhaled, the patient should at once be removed
into the open air and artificial respiration should be started. The body should be kept
If the poison has been swallowed, emetics should be administered or the ^stomach
should be washed out with warm water containing sodium bicarbonate. Purgatives and
stimulants should then be administered and artificial respiration may be resorted to, if
necessary. Penicillin must be adrnraistered early to prevent pulmonary infection.
Post-mortem Appearances. — The usual signs of asphyxia may be present. The
smell of petroleum may be noticed in the lungs, stomach, intestines and in the urine.
The stomach and the duodenum may be acutely inflamed with submucous haemorrhages.
In the case of death by inhalation, the lungs and brain together with the other
viscera should be preserved for chemieal analysis.
Chemical Analysis.— From the suspected material, petroleum or kerosene may be
separated by distillation with steam. The distillate is extracted in the usual manner
after adding excess of benzene. On evaporating the solvent on a water bath, the residue
may be examined for this substance by applying the following tests : —
1. Its characteristic odour and inflammability. 2. Its oily feeling when rubbed
between the fingers. 3. The boiling point ranges between 150° to 300° C. 4. Treated
with alcoholic potash, it does not saponify, a distinguishing feature from vegetable oils
and animal fats.
Medico-Legal Points. — Petroleum is not an active poison. In India accidental cases
of poisoning by kerosene oil occur among children, especially of the poor classes, who
crawl on the floor and manage to drink the contents from small tin lamp cans kept
within their easy approach. I have seen a few such cases, which recovered under
proper treatment. Accidental cases occur also among men who drink it in mistake for
country liquor. Suicidal cases have occasionally occurred. A case^ is recorded where
a Hindu woman, aged 60 years, who had a quarrel with her daughter-in-law, committed
suicide by drinking a quantity of kerosene oil. Post-mortem examination showed that
the stomach contained partially digested rice smelling of kerosene oil. The liver,
pancreas, spleen and kidneys were congested. A case 25 is also recorded in Bombay,
where a Parsi male, 28 years old, committed suicide by swallowing kerosene oil. In
his annual report for the year 1929, the Chemical Examiner, Madras, mentions a case,
where a person attempted to commit suicide by drinking petrol which resulted in the
vomiting of blood and mucus and pain in the mouth, throat and abdomen. In his annual
report for the year 1942, the Chemical Examiner, Bengal, reports a case of attempted
homicide by kerosene oil. A person, while sleeping with his mouth open, felt that
some liquid was being poured into his mouth. He got up immediately and felt a burn-
ing sensation in. his mouth and stomach. He vomited at once, and was removed to
hospital for treatment. The stomach wash contained kerosene oil.
Persons exposed to the fumes of petrol for a long time suffer usually from poly-
neuritis. Those who work constantly in petroleum distilleries are often found suffering
from skin eruptions.
OIL OF TURPENTINE (SPIRIT OF TURPENTINE)
This is distilled from common turpentine, an oleo-resin, obtained from various
species of Pinus, N.O. Coniferse. It is a thin, colourless and transparent oily liquid,
a mixture of several hydrocarbons of the turpene series. It has a strong, peculiar odour
and a pungent, bitter taste. It is insoluble in water, but soluble in alcohol, ether, chloro-
form and carbon bisulphide. It is extensively used to dissolve varnish. The pharma-
Ed' K' P' 515 ; see also C'
22. Madras Chem. Examiner's Ann. Rep., 1949.
23. Bengal Chem. Examiner's Annual Report 1945
t SSSfi^S^S^ im p" 10; see also AnBMa Rep- 1949-